Thursday, April 3, 2014

Best Kid-Review Ever of "The Reluctant Journal"

I've been lucky. "The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen" got a lot of lovely reviews by professionals in various newspapers. But this review, by a Grade 8 student named Vak, is far and away my favourite. He wrote it hoping to win a copy of the book in a contest put on by The Forest of Reading.  I'm rooting for you, Vak!

"I believe this book appeals to the demographic of all the Red Maple readers. It has a subtle mix of happiness, and sorrow, good times, and tragedy, and it talks about real life problems, such as bullying, parents that no longer stay together, teen romance, teen suicide, and obviously WRESTLE MANIA OH YEAH!
But everything aside, I believe that Susin Nielsen has done a spot on job, and has gone above and beyond the call of duty she has done a wonderful job on this book and if it was up to me I would nominate it for a Pulitzer, because as sad as it is to admit this book sums up every teens life in a nut shell.
About 20 percent of teens will experience teen depression before they reach adulthood. Can you believe that 20 percent. 1/3 of teens have been bullied at school. 1/3 THAT'S CRAZY. as sad as it is to admit,
The Reluctant Journal Of Henry K. Larsen isn't the Reluctant journal of Henry K Larsen, but the Reluctant Journal of 20%-1/3 of teens."

Beautiful and heartbreaking all at once. Vak, please get in touch with the Pulitzer committee, I think you're on to something. :-)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Michigan Library Association's Thumbs Up! Award

Okay, this is the last post about my trip, which did not end in New York. On Tuesday late afternoon we flew to Toronto and spent a little time with the family, 36 hours to be precise. The main purpose of the visit was to take not one but two tours of U of T, for the Son. We also dropped by my agent's office, Hilary McMahon at Westwood Creative. Even though Hilary has been my agent since 2007, I have never been invited past the foyer. It's a rule at Westwood that you have to have been a client for at least 7 years before they take you on a tour. :-) Alright, that's not true. It may have more to do with the fact that I live in Vancouver, and never make it to her office.
She even let us into the inner sanctum.

Then, on Thursday morning at THREE FORTY-FIVE AM, Son and I woke up to catch our respective flights. Son flew home to Vancouver. I flew to Detroit, then to the wonderfully named Kalamazoo, where I was picked up by a driver and taken to Battle Creek Michigan, about half an hour away, for the Michigan Library Association's "Thumbs Up!" award. It is their young readers' choice award, and I was delighted that this year's winner was "The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen." Last year's winner was John Green for "The Fault in our Stars!" So I felt pretty freakin' awesome, a bit of six degrees of separation. I delivered a keynote and was presented with a gorgeous, heavy glass award (which they are shipping to me because I only had carry-on and I could just imagine their faces at security!). 
It was a really fun afternoon. In the evening I went out for dinner with about fifteen librarians. They held up my belief that librarians are among the liveliest, entertaining and fun people to be around! I had a lot in common with one of them - we both met our Swedish engineer husbands abroad (her in France, me in Belgium) and brought them to North America to get hitched.
In other ways we had nothing in common. For example, she would hold this alligator. I, as you can see from my expression, would not. All the gals in this photo were very entertaining and delightful. I want to thank everyone in Battle Creek for a terrific, oh, 18 or so hours! (I was up at 4 am this morning to meander my way flight by flight back to Vancouver).

Monday, March 24, 2014

New York Finale

Why do I never, ever feel I have enough time in this city? WHY???? We leave tomorrow afternoon. So - last night - Red Rooster in Harlem - oh, how I love this restaurant! This was my third time going there, and I've always had a fantastic evening there. The chef is Marcus Samuelsson - Ethiopian-Swedish, he does a Swedish-soul food fusion that is so delicious. And the vibe - oh, the vibe - I told a friend rather idealistically that to me it's like a utopia - a mix of races all getting along and lovin' each other. On Sundays they have live music at the bar, and they had a great singer last night. The food was delicious.
This picture doesn't do it justice, but it's taken at the bar. Afterward we subwayed back to our hotel and were lucky enough to come upon The Meetles (seriously) - a Beatles cover band that was absolutely fantastic.
What I loved about them was that they were all over 40, a mix of men and women, different races - and singing was clearly the hightlight of their week. They got quite a crowd together. Son and I stayed for a good 45 minutes watching them and singing along. They do parties and bar mitzvahs - I'm telling you, if they were in Vancouver I would hire them in a heartbeat! A great evening after a great day seeing Marthe Jocelyn and "Waiting for Godot." 

Today we finally made the trek to Ellis Island. 
 As you can see, it was COLD.
What can I say? We've always wanted to go, and now we have, and now we will never have to do it again. Crowds and line-ups and waiting for boats in said crowds is not my idea of a great time. 

After a rest at the hotel, we then got to experience a highlight of the trip. I managed to score us tickets to "Late Night With Seth Meyers." It was a BLAST! We loved seeing cutie-pie Seth up close, and also the wonderful Fred Armisen. Guests were Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb - not my top pick of guests, but actually they were very funny and Seth did an "intervention" bit with them that was hilarious - and Kyle MacLachlan, whom I do love, all the way back to "Twin Peaks" days, and now "Portlandia." The musical guest was "Karmin." While the band was setting up, Seth came up into the audience and answered audience questions. But he was standing in the other aisle the whole time. A girl beside me really wanted to ask a question. So I put up my hand and he said, "Yes, Ma'am?" (yeah. Ma'am). And I said, "Seth, would you come to our aisle, please?" So he did. Then I got to tell him we loved him and we were from Vancouver, Canada, and the girl next to me, from Alabama, had a question. So, it was all very nice, because Son and I got to get up close and personal with Seth for a moment, and Alabama Girl was eternally grateful! 

Now we are just relaxing at our hotel. Which is a truly superb hotel. I haven't mentioned the name before, but it's the Andaz 5th Avenue. So look - it ain't the cheapest hotel in the city. But this time I said eff it - I wanted a good experience. And they deliver. I mentioned our room overlooks the New York Public Library. High ceilings, beautiful QUIET rooms. And the staff are AWESOME, particularly Amber and J.D. Free coffee and fruit in the mornings, free wine in the evenings. I'd come back in a heartbeat. 

Now, time to wrap up and head to bed ... Maybe more in a few days, because NYC may be drawing to a close, but the trip isn't ... Toronto (briefly) ahead followed by Battle Creek, Michigan (a story for another day).

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Big Apple Part 3 - In Which I See 1 Fellow Author, 1 Stranger's Penis and 2 Lions of the Theatre

Well I'm pretty sure I know what part of that heading grabbed your attention. First, here is son at Bar Americain with his enormous steak, and Son in Times Square with his gross-tasting coconut M & M's. There's a reason they are not available in Canada, they're disgusting.

So, last I wrote, we were just about to head to "Sleep No More."  It was really quite incredible. Like, the more I think about it, the more I like it and am also creeped out by the whole thing. Here is the mask you have to wear throughout the performance.
Like I said - creepy. But very, very powerful. They implore you not to stick together with your friends or significants, and it's obvious very early on that to do so would be to have a watered-down experience. I kind of loved it. I wish I'd boned up on my "Macbeth," though I'm not sure it would have mattered much. It was very dark, and you have no peripheral vision, and the mask makes you clammy after a while. And some audience members are effing pushy. But other than that - kind of mind-blowing. I loved when I accidentally came upon actors in action. I didn't "chase" actors like some people because I couldn't stand the stampede quality, but I still saw many incredible and eerie scenes unfold, including a bloody Macbeth getting into the bathtub while Lady Macbeth cradles him (that was the stranger's penis). Son had a completely different experience - which is part of what makes it so freaking cool - and he saw a whole pile of naked bloody body parts, which was disturbing! Me, I missed that scene. I dunno - it was like theatre by David Lynch. Super-cool. Had a great Italian dinner at a little joint right across the street, can't remember the name.

Today (Sunday) we shopped at Uniqlo (kind of a must when we're here - great for basics, especially for Son) then had the most pleasant surprise when Marthe Joceyln was in touch, thanks to this very blog. She was also here in NYC, and we had lunch at the Red Flame Diner. Marthe and I are both published by Tundra and Wendy Lamb (Marthe is much more accomplished than I am) and we have never met. I immediately liked her. So did Son. She is super-talented and so personable! I can't wait to meet up with her again.

Then Oskar and I headed off to the matinee performance of "Waiting for Godot." So you understand - I'm a rube. I have never read Beckett's play. And Son is only 17. But the play stars lions of theatre Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart. I was worried we'd be bored and that the play would be over our heads. And absolutely, some of it was over our heads. But the beauty was - it didn't matter. They were OUTSTANDING. It was a magnificent production. So funny, so moving ... I just couldn't believe those two. They made Beckett's words sing. Even my 17-year-old realized he was seeing something remarkable. Anyway. Here are the two lions (terrible photo), dancing for their encore at the end. It's playing till March 30 - if you have a chance, GO. Being the age I am, I found it incredibly profound (and mystifying in parts, too).
And that, dear friends, is enough for now - more later! We are off to the Red Rooster in Harlem for dinner ... my favourite restaurant in NYC.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Big Apple Part 2 - Book Stuff, Funny Stuff and a Faux Celebrity Sighting

We had another great day in NYC yesterday. Wandered up 5th Ave and visited stores on a recon mission, figuring out where we wanted to go back to shop (Uniqlo is always a must). Then we stopped at Rue 57 for brunch. Great spot.
Afterward we wandered through Central Park (the weather was beautiful) and up to the Whitney, where we saw some great modern American art. I don't know much about art, and I always like discovering someone new, so I realize this person may not be new to anyone else. But I had never seen Alice Neel's work before. This is a moving painting of Andy Warhol by Neel. He looks so vulnerable, letting himself be painted sans shirt, showing the girdle he wore after getting shot. Yes, I was allowed to take the photo, sans flash.
Then it was off to Random House. Wow, what a lobby!! Wall of books on either side.

I headed upstairs to meet both Wendy and my agent, Hilary McMahon (she's the tall drink of water to my left, and Wendy is the beautiful woman on my right. Funny how many attractive women I know in publishing, when I think of all the foxes I know at Tundra, too! I'm holding up "Bud, Not Buddy" by Christopher Paul Curtis because he is one of my absolute favorite authors, and Wendy is his publisher, too.
We had a great meeting then I was introduced to the massive marketing team, and we had prosecco, fruit and cheese.What's not to like about prosecco, fruit and cheese, I ask?? A very nice group of people.
After a wander home on my own, checking out a couple of stores along the way and walking through Rockefeller Square, I met Son in our room and we had a brief rest before heading out for a big steak dinner at Bar Americain. We eat a lot while we're here, but usually two meals instead of three. After sup it was off to Caroline's comedy club to see Michael Che, a comedian we'd seen on "Late Night With Seth Meyers." He was very good, although there were some challenging audience members who took a lot of his attention! 

Not back to the room till close to one, so had a leisurely start this morning (Saturday). We made our way to Williamsburg and Smorgasburg, which was super-fun. Huge flea market plus great food. I got two beautiful necklaces and Son got an amazing sweater. On the way there I was convinced I'd seen the actress who plays Shoshanna on "Girls," so Son and I briefly followed her (yeah. I know. What is wrong with me??) and Son pointed out that she looked NOTHING LIKE the actress.

Back in Manhattan we wandered Chinatown, Little Italy and Nolita before hopping on the subway back to the hotel. Now we rest, waiting to go to Chelsea later for an early bite to eat before seeing "Sleep No More," the immersive theatre experience - can't wait!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Good Times in the Big Apple

So March Break is upon us and Son and I are in New York for six nights. It is mostly pleasure and a little bit of business, but in this case the business is also pleasurable, because it has meant getting to meet my new US publisher for the first time, the wonderful Wendy Lamb. Tundra and Wendy will publish my new novel, "We Are All Made of Molecules" (yes, you heard the title here first) in Spring 2015. 

But first things first. We had a fun celebrity sighting the moment we got out of our cab in front of our hotel. A CANADIAN celebrity sighting - it was Michael Ondaatje. Being me, I dashed right up to him and said, "Michael!" (I almost said, "Michael Ondaatje!" Thank god I stopped). I reminded him that we'd met at the 2012 Governor General's Literary awards, because his lovely wife Linda Spalding had won for best fiction that year ("The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen" won best children's text). He not only remembered me, he said I'd "had a flirtation with a politician." I said, "Yes, Bob Rae, it wasn't a flirtation, I said I had a crush on him and you forced him to sit beside me and started snapping photos." So, while I have no photos of Michael from that night, I do have this photo, which has appeared on this blog before. 
That's me with Bob Rae, who was mildly uncomfortable, and his wife Arlene Perly-Rae wondering what the heck their friend Michael O. is up to. 

But back to NYC - after checking in to our gorgeous hotel, Oskar and I met Wendy Lamb for dinner at Bond 45. Big beautiful space, Italian food. It was great to meet Wendy. Kind of nervous-making; this is, after all, the woman who publishes and edits one of my all time favorite middle grade/YA writers, Christopher Paul Curtis. I still pinch myself at my good fortune; to have the truly fantastic and top-notch team at Tundra and now this. But we had a lovely time, and she was very inclusive of Son. More on that tomorrow, perhaps, as I will visit their offices then. 

Today (Thursday) Son and I took the subway down to the Lower East Side and had a late breakfast/early lunch at Katz's deli. Not perhaps the most nutritious way to start the day, but delicious.

Then we stopped in here ... 
 Where we really wanted to buy some herring to bring home to my Swedish husband, but it's all made fresh daily. So instead we bought a fat slab of chocolate babka to share, because that's really what we needed after Katz's. Then we walked by this place ..

We didn't stop for a knish, but for the record they have fantastic knishes, we have eaten them from this place before. Then we shopped in Soho for a few hours, before heading back to our hotel for a very quick turnaround. Oh, by the way - this is the view from our room. That's the New York Public Library.

We then met my literary agent for a very early pre-theatre dinner at a Cuban restaurant.  This is me, with Hilary. Isn't she a knock-out?
 We had a great dinner, then the three of us went next door to see "All the Way," a play about LBJ starring Bryan Cranston. Yes. THAT Bryan Cranston. It was a terrific play.

Here is my beautiful agent with my beautiful son at intermission. And below, well, that's Bryan Cranston in the middle. And next to him, on the left, is Michael McKean. Well, click on his name - you will definitely know him!
More tomorrow ...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

More Photo Memories from Paris

Now that I'm home I was finally able to upload the photos I took on my camera (I'd brought the wrong adapter cord). Here, in no particular order, are just a few of my favourites.
This is Mom standing in front of a statue of a very naked man. Make that one naked man and a naked man-beast.
 And two of my favourite women in Paris, Valerie and Gilberte. You've seen them before 'cos we hung out together a lot! 
 And my favourite new male friend, Steven Guarnaccia. I chose this photo because he's picking up a big piece of meat from the bowl of meat they provide us as a snack that day.
 And here I was just impressed that I got a really nice photo of the Eiffel Tower.
 Mom on the Ferris Wheel. I loved that danged ferris wheel.
 Oh and there is the Ferris Wheel.
 This was my first bookstore event, at Les Enfants Sur le Toit. I adored these kids.
 So smart, and so many good questions!
 One night we actually got to sit outside and watch the world go by as we drank an aperitif under heaters. Heaven.
 Well, it's a reading cat. Cat. Book. Two of my favourite things in one piece of grafitti.
 Mom and daughter at the fittingly named restaurant, "Meres et Filles."
 That park I mentioned in my last post, right across the street from Notre Dame (as you can tell).
And last but not least, me with Nathan and Theo, and I can finally link to Nathan's Blog!

Now it's back to reality. But reality isn't so bad. It's great to see my boys again, and my naughty cats. And I'm working on the substantive rewrite of my new novel, "We Are All Made of Molecules," and I love rewriting. It is so much more fun than staring at the blank page!